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Who or what drives digital transformation?

by | Jan 25, 2020

Today, the “who” isn’t as important as the “what” when it comes to digital transformation. It doesn’t matter if the individual is in IT or accounting. Instead, what matters is can they help transform a company’s technology, data, process, and culture? According to Harvard Business Review, finding the best talent in these four areas is crucial to the success of digital transformation.

What is a Digital Culture?

Businesses with a digital culture focus on how technology can improve customer and employee interactions. This mindset starts with human expectations and then looks for technical solutions to meet them. Without a digital culture, digital transformations fail. 

For example, a digital-first environment would have a collaborative cross-functional team analyze a consumer request for more self-service options. The team would look at what was expected across all channels before deciding on the best technology. It would also assess operational requirements to ensure internal resources could deliver the best customer experience. As a group, they would create a clear strategy for meeting expectations.

Without a digital orientation, the request might be sent to IT with instructions to deliver self-service options to the end-user. It is then left to IT to determine how to address the request. What often results is a solution that may or may not meet expectations because it is constrained by existing technology. There is no long-term business strategy for how to improve on the initial implementation.

Maintaining a digital culture is everyone’s responsibility, however, it is a company’s leadership responsibility for ensuring its success. Numerous studies have concluded that without executive buy-in, digital transformations are more likely to fail. 

Why are Digital Processes Needed for Transformation?

Real transformation means having an end-to-end approach to change. The concept sounds simple, but the implementation is far more challenging. Operations that cross organizational silos have to seamlessly connect in order to meet end-user expectations. Without a change in how processes are managed, businesses may be able to make incremental change, but these changes will never be transformational.

Take the self-service example. A transformative process would look at the request not just from a customer-facing perspective but also from the back office. What happens when the self-service option no longer meets the user’s expectations? An end-to-end solution would have mapped the customer journey to identify where human intervention would be needed.

Once the friction points are identified, the process should be evaluated to determine what employees need to do to satisfy the customer. Solutions such as helpdesks are identified so staff would have easy access to resources to answer questions or redirect a customer’s request. Without a comprehensive assessment, employees may not have ready access to the information, which frustrates not only the customer but also the employee.

What Role Does Data Have in Digital Transformation?

Data is the foundation upon which digital decisions are made. The business environment is simply too complicated for a “gut feeling” approach to decision-making. Unfortunately, most companies have difficulty accessing that data. Most companies receive a large volume of data, in various forms and on multiple platforms. A recent survey found that 55% of corporate data is unusable.

Organizations often blame IT for poor data quality when it is an enterprise-wide problem. A common IT adage is “garbage in, garbage out.” That means quality data is not going to result from inaccurate or incomplete sources. If companies want to improve data quality, they need to improve how the data is entered. They need to look at the end-to-end process of data collection.

In a digital environment, employees collecting and entering data are a part of the process team. They provide insight into where current data collection processes fail. Maybe there’s insufficient space to enter the data, or there’s no spell-checking function to help standardize data. Whatever the limitations, they would be included in the business strategy.

What Technology is Needed for Digital Transformation?

For transformation to be successful, companies need the following:

  • Digital culture
  • End-to-end processes
  • Usable data for business insights

Finding the right technology to help meet transformational requirements is essential to long-term success. However, the right technology depends on the company because every journey is different.

The first step is to evaluate existing systems. Legacy systems may not have the flexibility to deliver what is needed, and they may also be costly to replace. Companies need a digital strategy that helps identify how to integrate existing systems with emerging technology.

Then, businesses need to look at emerging technologies that can help deliver true transformation. For example, artificial intelligence can help your company implement self-service options. It can also help employees streamline back-office processes. Automated solutions can also help with data standardization and workflows. 

The key to digital transformation is technology, but technology must be deployed with purpose. It must be directed by data-driven decisions and guided by end-to-end processes. More importantly, the change must lead to a digital culture where customers’ and employees’ needs are met.

The Who and What of Transformation

Digital transformation requires both people and technology to be successful. People are crucial to creating a digital culture that crosses departmental lines to assess ways to improve enterprise-wide processes. Technology is a tool that helps with those improvements. Success requires both.Companies need employees who can work together to find solutions that meet customer expectations. And, they need team members who are eager to explore new technologies because deploying technology is the only way to achieve digital transformation. Without technology, organizations lack the agility and flexibility to meet expectations.